• Green Belt land

    I understand the concerns residents have raised about the potential for the Government to weaken protections for Green Belt land. In 2012, the Conservative-Lib Dem Government replaced all existing planning guidance – except on waste – with the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and National Planning Practice Guidance. I believe these reforms weakened the National Brownfield Strategy, promoted in 2003, which actively prioritised building on brownfield sites.

    The Government published its housing white paper in February, along with a consultation seeking views on amending the NPPF to allow local authorities to amend Green Belt boundaries in “exceptional circumstances”. The consultation ran from 7 February to 2 May 2017 and the Government said it expects to announce its conclusions “in due course”.

    I am concerned that the Government’s planning reforms have failed to do enough to promote brownfield development. The Government rejected a Labour amendment to the Housing and Planning Act during its consideration in Parliament which would have ensured automatic planning permission would be limited to housing on brownfield land.

    While local areas should be able to make their own decisions on land use, I believe the NPPF should include a clear brownfield first policy to ensure the planning system allows sustainable growth while protecting green spaces and the natural environment.

    I believe the Government should reinstate Local Authority grants to clean up and reclaim contaminated land to fully support a brownfield first policy, which is of particular relevance to St Helens.

    The wider issue is of particular importance for me in regards to the St Helens Local Plan and I welcome the vision set out in the plan for St Helens to be an attractive place to live, work and visit.

    I fully support the ambition to win investment and create employment in our borough, making the most of the opportunities afforded to us by our location in the heart of the North West situated between Manchester and Liverpool.

     I recognise that the council is required by Government to produce a local plan which must be based on strong evidence of need. Given that the proposals must therefore include the removal of land from the greenbelt, the Council must clearly demonstrate that it fully explores and where possible meets its land requirements for both housing an employment sites from the redevelopment of brownfields sites.

     Many of my constituents have expressed concerns about the amount of greenbelt land the plan proposes to release. If the Council believes and can demonstrate it has no alternatives to the release of greenbelt for housing, then it could address some of those concerns by considering a stepped housing target, with identified land released in phases with a focus maintained on bringing back into use brownfield sites.

    I want every resident of St Helens to have a good quality of life and I welcome recent investments like those in Sankey Canal to open up our borough and provide excellent green spaces and landscapes for recreational and health related activity. Investment in projects such as this alongside parks and areas such as Lyme and Wood Pits Country Park, enhance the natural beauty of our area and accessibility to nature.